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Opinion

Women's IPL a squandered opportunity

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Expert
3rd August, 2020
13

On Sunday 8 March 2020, I was at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with 86,173 other people to watch the Australian Women’s Cricket team beat the Indian Women’s Cricket Team by 85 runs in the final of the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup.

It was a hugely momentous day for women’s sport, setting a new world record for the highest ever attendance at a women’s cricket match and showing the world what is possible when appropriate investment is made.

There were so many highlights on the day including a heavily pregnant Katy Perry entertaining the crowd with her hit songs about female empowerment, an Alyssa Healy batting masterclass and those images of the Aussie women dancing alongside Katy Perry to close the evening (I will never forget those scenes).

But the highlight for me was that on that day, even before a ball had been bowled, success was guaranteed.

An Australian win would have delighted the crowd, been fitting reward for the world’s best cricket team and demonstrated that the investment made in the women’s game in Australia was worth it. The win would have been icing on the cake.

An Indian win would have shown the sub-continent what was possible. Imagine the further success that India could have on the world stage if proper investment was made in the women’s game? Hell, even after India lost, there were many of us wondering just how long until the sleeping giant awoke.

Australia Women’s T20 World Cup victory

The Aussie women celebrate their T20 World Cup victory. (Photo by Quinn Rooney-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

I am of the view that a key part of waking that sleeping giant is the establishment of a women’s IPL.

But when plans were announced for India’s Women’s T20 Challenge on Sunday night, any excitement I had quickly turned to disappointment.

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The Board of Control for Cricket in India have announced that the exhibition tournament between three teams will be played alongside the finals of the men’s competition. No problem there. But the dates for the competition clash with the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia.

And that’s where I have a problem (and judging by the tweets of Alyssa Healy, Rachael Haynes and Jessica Jonassen, I’m not the only one).

This news brings no winners.

The WBBL is undisputedly the best women’s cricket competition in the world. For those Indian players who we have seen compete in the tournament in the past including Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana, they will be forced to choose between competing in India or competing in the WBBL.

I have my suspicions about the choice these players will make.

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Not only does this mean that the Indian players will not have the opportunity to play in the best competition in the world, but it also means fans here in Australia will not have the chance to watch that Indian talent. And I don’t know about the rest of you, but I was hoping to see the likes of Poonam Yadav in Australia this summer.

The WBBL will not be as strong of a competition without the Indian women either and potentially without other internationals, who may make the decision to play in India instead.

It also has impacts for the professionalisation of the women’s game. In a perfect world, the major cricketing nations would have conversations and schedule the competitions so players could compete in almost all of them.

This would mean that it would maximise the potential for women to earn a living playing cricket and certainly would give more women the opportunity to be professional too.

Some have suggested that India needs a similar competition to the WBBL, which gives the next generation of Indian players similar levels of exposure as the WBBL.

Sarah Aley of the Sixers celebrates a wicket

The WBBL! The extra B is for Big Bash! (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

I could not agree more – but why do this at the same time as the WBBL? This means that this next generation of player will not have the chance to play against the world’s best and that the other internationals are unlikely to travel to India to take part in the competition.

I question whether this tournament can be successful without the best talent in the world?

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We are in unprecedented times. If a decision has been made by India to play the tournament during this time because it fits timing wise, fine, I understand.

But it is not an acceptable model going forward. It is not in the best interests of the women’s game going forward. It is not in the best interests of the players and is in my view, a squandered opportunity.

Domestic competitions should not be in competition with each other. To grow the game we all need to work together and unfortunately, that hasn’t happened on this occasion.